Monday, December 31, 2012

"It Isn't Like It Used To Be, But The Memories Are Good."

My younger daughter was in the middle of a fight with her older sister on Christmas morning.  She had to leave for work at 6 a.m. and her sister wouldn't move the car until she, "asked nicely."  It was insanity.  My daughter told me that when she started the car, the lyrics playing on the radio were, "It's Beginning to Look a Lot Like Christmas."  Her head was pounding, she was in tears, but she started to laugh.  That's the memory that will stay with her.

We had lunch the other day at R. J. Grunt's in Chicago.  She knows it's the one restaurant I choose over all the others because it holds happy memories for me.  Each time I walk in, I feel like it's the late '70s and I'm wearing my Frye boots and tight jeans.  She told me about dinner on Christmas night at her boyfriend's aunt's house.  She brushed over the fact that her boyfriend's dad said that HE didn't invite her.  Her favorite moment was when the aunt yelled back that SHE invited my daughter and was happy she was there.  I did my best to hold back my rage against the little twit who wasn't thrilled to have my daughter at dinner.  She sent me a text later that night that read, "Thanks for being my friend, mom."  Thank you, sweetheart.  That's my favorite memory from our lunch.  The twit isn't worth my time.  Not worth her time either.  I know the boyfriend isn't right for her.  What do I do?

I promised myself that I would start organizing the piles of papers downstairs.  I actually started the project and came across the sweetest photo of my son when he played T Ball.  He's 6 years old and holding a mitt.  I moved the photo into the kitchen and each time I look at it, I smile.  There was another photo of my daughters when they were 4 and 6 years old.  They're walking down the street in heels and baskets on their heads.  I showed the photo to my husband.  Somehow that photo erased all the bad memories from the Christmas morning fight.  Happy memories filled us with, well, happiness.

That's the key to joy.  Happy memories.  I'm sitting at the table reading my paper and a letter to the editor is from a gal who recalls happy times at Christmas when her children were young.  Her husband is gone now.  "It isn't like it used to be, but the memories are good."  

I'm grateful for the happy memories.  My resolution is to tap into those memories when life breaks me down.  I'll look at the photos and smile.  I'll be grateful to add new memories throughout the year.  Hey....I CAN add new memories.  I'm not limited to looking at a board with photos of my kids.  Imagine a prison cell with a corkboard filled with images of your family.  Happy memories from the PAST. 

Looking forward to a Happy New Year.  Happy Memories.  Grateful that I'm free to build new memories. 

Friday, December 28, 2012

It's a Wonderful Life...When You're Free

I guess most people would say it's not a great Christmas when the police show up in your kitchen.  That's what happened to me this year.  Technically, the police were there the morning AFTER Christmas.

My mother and oldest daughter continued the fight that started on Christmas morning.  That's when the younger daughter went into her sister's room and asked her to move the car so she could leave for work.  She works at one of Chicago's most prestigious restaurants and she was preparing for the Christmas brunch being held there.  All she did was ask to move the car.  She wasn't, "sweet."  She was in a rush.  The older daughter said, "Ask nicely."  And then it was, "Good Morning Vietnam."  Two young women screaming at each other to the point that their brother had to break up the fight.  One daughter left for work, and told me later that her head was pounding so much, she never really felt the joy she should have at brunch.  

The older daughter continued her rant for two full days.  Right after the morning fight, I tried to hide her car keys.  I didn't want her to drive in a rage.  She screamed that she needed a break.  A time out.  I went to Christmas Mass with my mother, husband, and son.  We were there 40 minutes early.  We needed a break.  A time out.  Thank you, Lord.  You're always there.  My daughter went to Mass at another parish.

I was hosting Christmas dinner for my family and my brother's family.  My daughter returned, and instead of giving her a hug, and being grateful that she came back, I said something stupid and cruel.   Guests were literally walking through the door, and my beautiful daughter was in tears.  I wished at that very moment that I was in a cell.  Peace.  

The next morning, day after Christmas, my daughter confronted me about that cruel comment and we went at it for the entire morning.   My mother was in the middle.  It got loud and my son was worried.  At one point, I turned and there walking into the kitchen was a local police officer.  I just looked at him and said, "This is the way Italians talk.  Was it the neighbors?"  He said, "I understand.  I grew up in a Sicilian household.  It was your son."   He left, after calling off the rest of the squad cars making their way to my house.

Christmas started off so right this year.  I shopped for everyone and I was grateful to have enough money to buy what the kids needed and wanted.  The week before Christmas, I planned an outing downtown so my mom could shop for her five grandchildren, with the kids there.  She gave each one cash, and off they flew to find a perfect gift. We went out to lunch in the city.  It was such a joy.  

On Christmas Eve, we took the kids and my sister-in-law to a French restaurant for dinner.  We brought meals to my in-laws since they can't walk. We had a terrific night.  Later we opened gifts at my house.  My son loved his gifts.  My younger daughter loved her gifts.  My older daughter was sad because she thought no one appreciated the gifts she gave everyone.  That's what set her off.  It's never a perfect Christmas, is it?

Through all of this, I've been grateful to have the freedom to be part of this mess.  It really is a wonderful life as long as you're free.  And as long as Officer Nelson keeps driving past the house.

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Five Girls From Kindergarten 50 Years Later

My parents came to Chicago from Italy in 1955.  We spoke no English in the house.  It's crazy to imagine how two people left their country with no plans and managed to find a comfy part of the city in which to raise their family.  They didn't know how to speak the language, yet they somehow knew what was best.

When I started Kindergarten, I only spoke Italian.   I remember that first day clearly.  Mom is holding my hand as I approach the glass doors to school.  I wasn't afraid.  That day, or a few days later, I was sitting at my desk across from another little girl.  I was talking to her and she kept laughing.  I thought she understood what I was saying.  I loved it!  I just kept Italian.   She just laughed.  The teacher came up to us and in order to keep me quiet, she placed masking tape over my mouth.  (Parochial School!)  I learned later that year, as I started to understand English, that my new friend was laughing at the gold hoop earrings in my pierced ears.  No one else had pierced ears with gold hoops. 

That little girl is still my friend today.  There are 5 of us who have been friends since our early days in school.  This year we turned 56 and we were born in 1956.  So grateful to be able to say this.  We get together once or twice a year to celebrate and catch up.  Life has thrown us all a curve or two or three.  Through it all, we've managed to be able to hold on to a piece of our childhood.

Last night we celebrated our friendship at a terrific restaurant.  Not one woman at the table looks over 40!  Gorgeous, smart, warm, generous, funny.  I'm so grateful to linger over dessert to catch up and share.  No timer on a phone that says, "Your time is up." 

Friday, November 30, 2012

Inside Looking Out

It's that time of year when you're either complaining that it's that time of year or you're grateful for it.  I've chosen to be grateful.  I'm happy to shop for gifts, stop for coffee at the mall, to take in the lights, and plan for happy times.

I planned a hike with my family at Thanksgiving.  It's something we've never done.  We walked for a while, and had dinner in an old lodge with a roaring fire.  I looked around at all the families and friends sharing a meal with each other.  I wondered if they realized how lucky we all were to be there.  To be with each other.  Who knows what next year brings. 

Instead of hiding from the Black Friday sales, I went in with guns blazing.  No complaints.  Happy to be there.  Why not.  I was home late Thanksgiving night watching the news reports of stores being open early and folks getting out to find a deal or two.  Why should I sit in front of the I'm in prison....when I could be out. 

I'm looking forward to all the good things that this holiday season brings, grateful that I'm not on the outside looking in.  Or is it, "The Inside Looking Out."  

Friday, October 26, 2012

Count Your Blessings.....

"Count your blessings so you'll notice when God rips them away from you one by one."

Isn't that a great thought?  I read that recently and realized why keeping up with this journal is so important.  Keep counting.  Enjoy Life!

Sunday, October 7, 2012

"Two Roads Diverged In A Yellow Wood."

One thing I've been meaning to do is visit an old friend, but she lives almost an hour away and there's always something else I need to do.  We finally settled on a day, and  as I drove, I kept a mental list of everything that wasn't getting done.  So many things I could have, should have been doing instead of this. I pulled off the expressway and started down a stretch of road in the middle of what I call, country.  Large estates, farmhouses, lonely road.

In the middle of that road, I saw a crazy image driving in the opposite direction.  A Sheriff's prison bus.  I looked over and it passed with prisoners on board.  Here it is, a gorgeous autumn morning, and these guys are off to court, while I'm off to visit a friend for lunch.  Robert Frost could not have dreamt up this, "Road Not Taken." 

It was only as I watched that bus disappear in my rearview mirror that I noticed the beauty around me.  Trees were golden, the sun was beaming through the clouds.  I was free to drive in any direction I wanted to. 

I didn't rush my visit.  It's a good time any time you don't have to rush a visit because you're not allowed to speak to a friend for more than 3 minutes.  Best part of the day was the second cup of coffee.

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

When Will The Apple I PHONE 19 Be Availabe?

My son's phone conveniently stopped working the other day.  Ironically, the I Phone 5 was introduced just about the same time.  Coincidence?  He did have to upgrade to the I Phone 4 since it was being offered free of charge.  My phone still flips open.  I'm OK with that.

When my oldest daughter started grade school, there was a school open house we attended.  The teacher said, "We just can't imagine how these children will be learning in the future.  What tools will they have?"  This was just about 20 years ago.  Can that teacher even fathom what technology had in store for those kids?  This was before the internet was introduced. My daughter was the first class of students who would eventually learn to fast forward and rewind their videos. 

While I was updating my son's phone, I remembered that day in either late '79 or early 1980.  Dick Cavett was on the car radio.  I was sitting in my yellow Cutlass Supreme in my parent's driveway.  Cavett was a spokesperson for a company called, "Apple."  "Someday everyone will have a computer at their desk," said Cavett during the commercial.   At dinner later that night, I asked my dad if he would chip in with me to buy shares of Apple.  He said, "No. Never give your money to a stranger."  You know the rest.  That conversation still haunts me in the night.

As I signed off on my son's new phone, I thought how lucky he was to keep up with the latest technology.  I was grateful that I could afford to help him stay current.  I've been acting as though I'm too old to learn.  I don't want to learn about apps.  I was the one who went kicking and screaming into the world of the word processor.  Damn.  I had just gotten new ink for my IBM Selectric Typewriter.  The soft blue one.  

The salesman suggested I look into a new phone at the end of this year.  It's a cross between a tablet and large screen phone.  They call it a, "Fablet."  I wonder what the world of technology will be like 14 years from now when Blago leaves prison.  Will there be an I Phone 19?  Will he be too old to learn the new tricks?  I'll be the same age as he will be.  I don't want to be that old and not care.

I'm grateful that I'm due for an upgrade. 

Sunday, September 2, 2012

"Jealousy...Belongs To Reasonable Men."

I'm staring at this week's edition of, "Parade Magazine," in the Chicago Tribune.  There are the Obamas.  They look happy, beautiful, content.  The photo says, "Life has been good to us.  We are on top of the world.  What we have is golden." :)

I'm grateful that I'm not Blago or his wife, who have to open the paper this morning and see the couple staring right back at him.  I'm thinking that they're thinking, "If only Obama had come from another state. If only I hadn't joked around about that Senate seat. Life was good to us.  We were on top of the world.  What we had was truly F-ing golden. That could have been us." :(

Imagine that perfect family or person you know.  They have everything.  It's normal to be jealous.  Yes, you remind yourself of all you have. You move on.  But even Aristotle pointed out that, "Jealousy is both reasonable and belongs to reasonable men."  Thankfully, we don't have to see that perfect person we know on the news each night, in the paper each day.  We don't see their perfect family sharing adventures around the world.  Blago endures this every day.  No peace of mind.

"He who envies others does not obtain peace of mind." (Buddha)  I'm grateful for my peace of mind.

Saturday, September 1, 2012

One Summer Down and 13 To Go.

My favorite spot in Chicago is Buckingham Fountain when it's lit up.  I adore the view.  This summer I managed to get there only once.  What a shame.  I think it was Eddy Murphy who said that if we're lucky, we might experience 75 summers.  Those are fleeting moments.  I did my best to soak it all in, but I could have done more.  I was, however, truly grateful for each of those days spent outdoors.  I regret not swimming at the local community pool.  Next summer.

Nice to look forward to another summer so I can make a mental list of all things possible.  Patti Blagojevich put an anniversary letter from hubby on her Facebook page.  In it he quotes Robert Browning, "the best is yet to be."  And then he asks, "What are you doing next year at this time?"  I love the optimism. But, "Never the time and the place and the loved one all together."  (Robert Browning)

This morning I was, "struck by the splendour of a sudden thought."  (Browning!) Autumn winds are blowing into Chicago.  Love the change of seasons.  Cozy sweaters, pumpkin bread, colors all around.  Blago can't take that all in.  I'm grateful I'll be able to.

Thursday, August 16, 2012

Summer Is Winding Down.

I feel the pressure.  It's almost over and there's so much to take advantage of.  This year it was so hot that I didn't even plant flowers in the back yard.  I made my list of simple summer joys that I can't let slip by. 

Yesterday was perfect weather for the local pool.  I've spent every summer with my children there.  Now they're grown.  I brought my magazines along.  My very favorite way to spend a day is next to a pool or on a beach with a book.  It's ridiculous that I didn't do it more often.  Wasn't it hot enough?  Or was it too hot?

I looked around at all the young mothers playing with their babies in the pool.  27 years of my life flashed by.  There is my oldest pointing her toes in the water when she was 2 months old.  There she is walking a year later along the edge holding my hand.  The teenagers are asking if they can babysit because she's so cute in that red polka dotted suit.  Now, at age 4, she's telling me she's determined to learn how to dive off the diving board.  "You have to learn to swim first.  You can't be afraid of the water anymore."  That baby went on to become an Illinois State swimming champion and earned a scholarship to swim in college.  She coaches her high school swim team.  There she is again. She's blowing out candles on her birthday cupcakes with friends at the pool.

There I am holding my second daughter in the water.  She's 6 months old.  So cute in her bikini. I'm teaching her how to walk on her tiptoes along the edge.  Now I see her diving off the board 5 years later.  "You have to learn how to swim first!!!"  No fear.

I see my little boy wearing goggles.  He's yelling, "Mom. Look!"  I'm looking.  I can't read because I'm afraid to take my eyes away from you. 

So I read my magazines at the pool yesterday.  No one bothered me.  Sad. It was a perfect summer day.  I had happy flashbacks through the tears. 

If you're Blago, you have flashbacks a lot.  They're filled with tears...of regret.  I don't want to regret missing this summer because it was too hot!!

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Calories Don't Count At The State Fair

Mother Nature gives Chicago a handful of perfect days.  Today is one of them.  I'm so grateful to sit on my balcony and enjoy this weather.  I'm making plans to see Buckingham Fountain tonight.  I love Grant Park.  Nothing is more beautiful than the lights glowing against the backdrop of Lake Michigan. 

I'll be close to Taylor Street. I can stop for an Italian lemonade and a beef sandwich.  So grateful that I can do these things.  I had too much fun a few weeks back at the Ohio State Fair.  LOVED my corn on the cob.  I actually went out of my way to eat foods I normally take for granted.  I stopped to smell the aroma of meat on a grill.  Funnel cakes with powdered sugar.  Love.  I saw a life sized cow made out of butter. 

Once upon a time, Blago was cutting the ribbon at the Illinois State Fair.  He probably hated the idea of going there. There's one county fair left at the end of August.  This one is in Elkhorn, Wisconsin.  Funnel cakes.  Enjoy life!

Saturday, July 28, 2012

Grateful That I'm Not Bored This Summer

Word has it that Blagojevich is bored with prison life.  Enough already.  I get it.  I'd turn to pulling out my eyebrows if I was there this long.  Only 13 3/4 years left to go. 

I'm grateful that I've been too busy to blog about why I'm grateful I'm not Blago.  Summer heat has me locked up...sort of.   I love time in my house.  It's my STP summer.  "Summer To Purge."  Cleaning out the basement.  When your son is on a travel baseball team, any time you have to yourself is spent cleaning the house, running errands, etc. 

August is around the corner.  I'm going to pretend that I'm in Europe.  Even though I'm working, I'll make sure I visit a bistro for lunch or dinner.  I'll pretend I'm a tourist in Chicago.  I love Buckingham Fountain.  The best view in the world is along the Terrace at the Trump Tower.  It overlooks Lake Michigan. Not so sure what the view is like from Blago's cell in prison.  He runs around the track every day.  Same view.  Day after day. 

I'm working in Columbus, Ohio this week.  The Ohio State Fair is just down the road.  Dinner on a stick sounds divine.  I would never have even considered standing in this heat, surrounded by hundreds of people as an option for fun.  But I'm grateful for a change in scenery.

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Grateful To Be There When My Son Strikes Out.

It started on a Saturday morning in mid-July.  The pacing.  My son was in Florida on his first tournament with his travel 15 & U baseball team.  We sent him off on Thursday with the team.  It was his first flight without us.  Friday's game was rained out.  He was going to play on Saturday. 

It would be the first game my husband didn't attend in all these years.  He coached our son's little league team forever.  He thought he would be able to handle the suspense. He literally paced in the living room waiting for a call from another dad who went down for the games.  Up and down the wood floor. How did they do?  How did my son play?  How was his swing?  Did he pitch?  What's the competition like?

I looked at my husband and said, "Let's go."  He tied up loose ends at work, and we drove all night.  We actually drove INTO Tropical Storm Debbie to see the games.  To be there.  I'm grateful that we were free to leave.  I can't even imagine what it would be like to pace and know that I can't leave.  Blagojevich is a loving father.  I'm not sure what sports his daughter's were in, if any.  But I know he paces. 

The games were fun, but my son was struggling.  He pitched a great game against tough players from Miami. However, he just couldn't connect when he went up to bat.  I was so grateful that my husband was able to talk to him.  "Take a step back from the plate. Your arms grew. You're hitting the ball in the center of the bat, not the end."

We drove home a few days later.  So grateful that the rain stopped.  Grateful for a chance to see the beaches along the Gulf of Mexico and to have lunch on Captiva Island.  It was a long ride.  Better to drive than to have spent the time pacing.

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Father's Day and The Hollow Men

Father's Day is coming up.  We'll visit my father-in-law and be so grateful that he's with us. Grateful that we can hug him. Grateful that my husband and my son can go over my son's baseball stats with him.  My dad's been gone a long time.  Sucks.  I adored him.  He adored me.  I'm grateful to have those memories. 

When I watched Blago walk into prison, he might have been thinking of T.S. Eliot's poem, The Hollow Men.  "This is the way the world ends....  Not with a bang, but a whimper."  I'm sorry his kids have to see him in prison, but how lucky that they still can see him. 

My dad came to this country with nothing and built a prosperous life.  He was the epitome of the immigrant success story.  He was proud of his children.  Blago must be so grateful this week that his dad didn't see him in prison.  His dad came from Serbia to America for the same reason my dad came, a better life for his children. Imagine how proud his dad was of his son, the governor.  Now,"he's a son of Serbia no more."  "This is the way the world ends...."

The Hollow Men are empty of faith and moral strength.  They live only for themselves, and fail to choose between good and evil.  I'm grateful that my father, my husband, my father-in-law are all good men.  Happy Father's Day.

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

So Much To Do...And Getting Nothing Done

I've been super busy doing things around the house that have needed to get done.  Once Memorial Day comes along, so do the responsibilities.  A new season means new chores. That kitchen window needs to be repaired, the balcony deck needs to be stained.  You know the drill.  I'm so grateful to be able to get those things done.  It would drive me insane to be sitting on my hands getting nothing done when I have so much to do.  THAT is prison.

Monday, May 28, 2012

Splendor In The Grass

Gorgeous Memorial Day weekend in Chicago with temperatures in the high '80s.  My mom stopped by and I looked out onto the backyard and she was sleeping on a blanket.  I had to join her.  What a simple treat.  Crazy thing came to my mind.  When reporters asked Amanda Knox what she was looking forward to after spending years in an Italian prison, she said, "A roll in the fresh grass."  That's what I did.  Just rolled and felt the warm blades.  Grateful for the simple splendor.

Thursday, May 24, 2012

Month Two for Blagojevich, "Welcome To My Nightmare."

The season closer of REVENGE was insane.  I can't wait for the next season.  So grateful that I can choose to watch what I want to!  

Friends are getting married this weekend.  It should be a beautiful night.  I'll be watching my son play baseball.  The antique flea market is always a great way to start my Sunday morning.  Time to plant flowers in the garden.  

It's been two months since Blago stepped into prison.  Two months since life passed him by.  "Welcome To My Nightmare," by Cooper is playing on the radio.  How appropriate.  

I'm grateful that I have so much to look forward to this weekend.  I don't want life passing me by.  That would be my nightmare.

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Somebody's NOT Watching Me.

It's hard to appreciate having the house to yourself when you're a single person living on your own.  You watch whatever you want to watch on T.V.  You can choose to run around naked.  There's no one to tell you that you left the bathroom a mess.  It's different when you have a family or when you live with  your folks. My friend likes to say, "I can pee in the corners if I want to."  That's when all four of her kids and husband are out of the house for the entire day.  

It was a rainy day yesterday.  Another friend took a rare morning off work.  She caught up on this season of, "Mad Men."  Loved it.  I could hear how much fun she was having just by the way she said, "Oh, I'm curled up watching T.V.  I'll talk to you later."  I smiled at the phone after hanging up with her.  Now THAT'S fun.

My son's high school baseball game was called off due to the rain.  All of a sudden I found extra time for myself.  No one was expecting me anywhere. My son came home, looked at my sad jeans, and begged me to, "Please get new jeans.  You embarrass me when you wear those."  Buying new jeans is just as bad as shopping for a bathing suit.  I think I spent over an hour trying on different pairs.  I did that on purpose, because I was having fun this time, and I realized that there was no one to tell me that I couldn't spend an hour if I wanted to.

I was grateful to take an extra long shower this morning.  I'll have a late breakfast, because I can.  I'm grateful that there's no one watching me and telling me how long I can shower, when to eat, how long I can eat.  There's no one to take a head count this afternoon to make sure I'm where I should be.  O.K., so my husband calls, but he's just trying to coordinate school and baseball schedules.  

Blago is never free to do what he wants, when he wants. I'm grateful for the time I had to shop yesterday.  My guess is that my son asked me to go shopping so HE could have some time alone as well.  He kicked me out of the house.  That's fine. The mom jeans I picked up will still embarrass him.

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Prometheus; "I Caused Mortals To Cease Foreseeing Their Doom."

I read the stories of Blago's lawyers recently visiting him in prison.  They reported that he's, "bonding," with his cell mate.  An unfortunate choice of words.  He's washing dishes in the kitchen.  I love washing dishes.  It's so peaceful.  He's bulking up by working out.  I wish I had more time to do that.  The only positive thing I could think of was that it's nice to know it only takes 5 weeks or so to bulk up.  In my mind it takes years, so I never start.  He's running around in circles, which keeps him fit and tan.  I run around in circles all day, but I'm not tan....or fit.   

It really does sound like a peaceful existence.  He's making friends.  I read that he's even offered to teach Greek Mythology classes.  Honestly, did anyone know you could sign up for Greek Mythology class in prison?  

If you're looking at spending 14 years in prison, away from your family and your life, the only thing that must hold you together is hope.  Hope that your appeal comes through.  Hope is a good thing.  I keep hoping the next lottery is mine to win.  Blago hopes this will be his first and only summer away from home.  His first class in Greek Mythology could center on Pandora's Box.  It's been way too long for me to get this right, but if I remember correctly, the story goes something like this.  Zeus trapped all the good spirits in a box and entrusted the box to Pandora. When Pandora opened it, the good spirits left, and abandoned mankind in their flight to heaven.  Elpis is the only good god remaining among mankind.  Elpis is Hope.  Prometheus was the god who molded mankind out of clay.  He said he allowed Elpis to remain on earth. "Yes, I caused mortals to cease foreseeing their doom.  I caused blind hope to dwell in their breasts.  As long as man lives and sees the light of the sun, let him count on hope."  

I was grocery shopping today.  I'm grateful to find so many great choices on the shelves.  The bread was warm, there were 4 different pies in the bakery, and I picked up fresh flowers. A plain can of tuna at the prison commissary would destroy any hope I could muster.   I even picked up a bottle of gin!  I'm trying out a gin & tonic at home.  Love my freedom.

Sunday, April 22, 2012

That Which Won't Kill Me, Postpones The Inevitable; So Drink Up!

The last time I drank was 1978 in Acapulco.  Too many tequila sunrise drinks.  I danced through an earthquake. I've only had wine since then.   What a pity.

It's time I learned how to drink.  The guys I work with have a pretty good idea of what makes a perfect cocktail and we're on the road, so what better adventure than learning the art of ordering a proper mix.  One fella described how his mom would ask him to make her a Whiskey Sour. "Two maraschino cherries, please."  Loved the '60's when my cousins would get together and play while the adults sat around the basement wet bar.  

I'm always the one at a banquet or wedding asking the other women what they're drinking.  I haven't a clue what to order.  So the first night out I ordered an iconic drink, a Gin & Tonic.  Superb taste and I loved the anchovy stuffed olives.  The key is making it with Bombay Sapphire gin.  The next night I ordered a classic Martini.   It was so smooth, it made the pearls on my neck feel warm.  The after dinner drink I fell in love with is a B&B Liqueur.  God bless the Benedictine monks who came up with this.  I tried a Whiskey Sour, but it's not for me, even with the extra cherry.  The overall winner was a Long Island Iced Tea.

Last night, the table next to me asked what the beer choices were.  They jumped at Leinenkugel's Summer Shandy.  It's a wheat beer laced with fruit.   It dawned on me that it's going to be a long time before Blago can enjoy one.  The waiter brought my Summer Shandy and I raised the glass to freedom!

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

"Hell Is Other People." NO EXIT

This week I'm working as a consultant for a Chicago jeweler.  I've been buying estate jewelry in Cleveland, Ohio.  There are three of us working with families who are selling family treasures, and dad's military souvenirs.  We work in small hotel meeting rooms as we travel from suburb to suburb.  Think, "Pawn Stars," meets, "American Pickers."

Each room has had a door with the sign, "No Exit."  I laughed as it reminds me of the 1944 existentialist French play by Jean Paul Sartre by the same name.  The play has been performed in English under the titles, "No Way Out," and "Dead End."  

The play is the source of one of Sartre's most famous quotations, "Hell is other people."  It's a depiction of the afterlife in which three deceased characters are punished by being locked into a room for eternity.  In other words, "certain people can be the most effective form of hell."  You know where I'm going with this.

The fellas that I'm working with are the best in their field.  They're smart.  They're fun.  One week with them is all I can take. I'm grateful that we get along, but I'm grateful that this isn't for eternity.  If you work with someone every day, be grateful that you can go home at night and not see them again 'til the dawn.  

Blago has three cell mates.  No break for him.  They're together all day, all night, and somewhere in the middle.  There's no exit, no way out. 

Monday, April 16, 2012

Blagovevich One Month Later; What's Worse? Grey Hair or Mac Attack?

I had some explaining to do the other day.  My husband found out I'm writing about Blago.  "What the hell is wrong with you? Why are you wasting your time like this?"  I can't help it.  It's not being wasted.  Last night we went to dinner.  I had worked all weekend in the cold and rain.  It was nice to sit in a comfy booth. The waitress said something that really perked me up.  "Do you want your potatoes baked, mashed, or fried?"  I've always taken that question for granted.  Now I realize it's pretty special to have that choice.  Who said my time's being wasted?

It's been one month since Blagojevich walked through those prison doors.  Time  to touch up my grey.  It's not going to be a pain in the neck for me.  I can't help but think it's about that time for Blago as well.  Watching the grey grow in isn't going to be about vanity for him.  Each centimeter of grey hair is a measure of the length of time he's been away from home.  

His attorney has said that Blago is having a hard time sleeping.  He has three cell mates.  I don't think it's the cards he dealt himself that keeps him up, or borrowing a quote from Charlie Brown, "Sometimes I lie awake at night and ask, where have I gone wrong?" There's a toilet in the room.  How would you be able to sleep if three other guys were using the toilet that sits a few feet from your head?  I've been grateful each night as I pull the covers over myself.  

Have you ever had a, "Big Mac Attack?"  I haven't.  I've had a, "Whopper With Cheese Attack."  It happens every few months.  All of a sudden, I NEED one.  I could stand to lose a few pounds, but I'm not obese.  I just love food.  When I was pregnant I had an intense craving for a Sizzler Steakhouse baked potato.  Go figure.  One night, I literally stopped for a baked potato on my way to a dinner party.  What does Blago do when the attack hits?  This is the question I ask myself on his first month in prison.  There's a crazy show called, "Mob Wives."  One of the characters is the niece of a mob guy who spent time in jail.  She told a story that actually haunts me.  The guy she was visiting had a craving for pork chops cooked with Italian spices.  She went to see him in prison with pork chops hidden under her breasts.  Cooked, with Italian spices. 

No offense, but I don't think Blago's wife could pull that off.  I'm just grateful that I'm able to indulge when the attack hits me.  

Thursday, April 12, 2012

April Showers Bring Gratitude For Work. If Patti Blagojevich Can Do It, So Can I.

April showers will hit the area this weekend.  Baseball games are going to be rained out.  Those May flowers will start doing their dance underground.  I'll be working.  I sell antique jewelry at local markets.  The best part is finding a perfect piece for a customer. The worst part is dragging boxes, glass cases, and complicated display stands from the truck to the space.  I'll be loading my truck in the garage.  I'll be unloading in thunderstorms.  It's cold.  Think of Goldie Hawn standing in the rain and the mud in "Private Benjamin" when she cries out, "I wanna have LUNCH!"

In my past life I worked in a field that called for a briefcase, a proper lunch, a crisp white blouse.  Today, I work in open fields filled with tents that hold antique treasures.  I love it.  There's a rush when an older gal calls me to visit her when she's ready to sell her jewelry.  There's a rush when I wrap a piece from that collection and hand it to a shopper.  I'm grateful that I've found a way to help financially support my family.  I did it on my own.  I taught myself certain skills that would be hard for most folks to appreciate, way before American Pickers, and Storage Wars came along. 

I've read the stories that Blago called around for job opportunities for his wife if someone special was elected to fill the vacated Senate seat.  He was asking in the neighborhood of $150,000.  There's the allegation that Patti B. received lots of cash for her brokerage services to one of Blago's friends.  What are friends for? 

So now, Patti's dad is most likely the one who pays the mortgage and the girls' private school tuition.  Patti is strong.  I like the way she fights for her kids, her husband, her house.  I'm sure she's secretly grateful every night before she sleeps that she's not in prison as well.  She should be. She was happy to eat the tarantula, because it was less painful than biting the bullet of going to jail.  But I love that she ate it in order to financially support the family.  She doesn't want her dad to help.  

I'll be grateful for every customer who comes out to the LaPorte Antique Show this weekend.  When I'm loading the truck, in the cold, I'll be grateful that I can do this on my own terms.  Hopefully, I'll be one step closer to paying the orthodonist.  

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Silence Is F-ING Golden!

Easter brunch at my house was a fiasco.  My husband took his parents to Mass so he could help his dad walk into church without a wheelchair.  His folks live a few hours away and he wanted to spend time with them.  The kids and I met my mom for Mass at her church.  All good.  Who knows if this is the last time we'll spend Easter together.

The rest of the day made me long for the days when the kids were young and the only thing they expected from Easter was an egg hunt in the back yard.  Now they asked if I had prepared mimosas.  Really?  No.  I have orange juice, though.  The two older girls had to leave early for work, and I thought brunch meant a spinach tart, and a quiche.  "Why all the egg dishes?  Where's the ham.  The potatoes."  It just went downhill.  No joy.  Just complaints at the table.  The table wasn't set properly.  The coffee didn't have the right amount of cream.  The cookies were burnt.  All I heard were strange noises coming from people I didn't recognize.  The girls left for work.  My son came in the kitchen and hugged me.  REALLY hugged me.  Thank you.  

Later, I had dinner with my mom, husband, and son.  Ham, potatoes, the Master's golf tournament.  I noticed how quiet it was as I washed the dishes that night.  So calm.  Yesterday morning I had coffee at the kitchen table.  I looked out at the green lawn.  The beautiful blossoms on this gorgeous spring day.  Shhhhh.  Listen.  It's quiet.  Same thing happened this morning.  Only this time I had my Tribune, coffee, burnt cookie.  No radio.  No sounds.  

I think the finest lyrics ever written were in Simon & Garfunkel's, "Sounds of Silence."  For me it's not the darkness, but the early morning that turns out to be, "my old friend."  I'm so grateful for this time.  I don't think there's really any silence for Blago.  Noise everywhere.  Clinking, yelling.  Maybe for him it's the darkness that brings calm.  When he runs outside. When silence does come, he'll realize that he had what was F-ing golden the whole time.  

Friday, April 6, 2012

Will I Be Around When Blagojevich Is Freed From Prison?

There's a Blago Countdown Clock out there.  It's a countdown generator you can find at Punch in the date of release, and you are staring at the years, months, days, seconds as they tick away towards freedom for the former governor.  Eric Zorn, from the Chicago Tribune, published this on-line.  I took a look at it, and had the same reaction as someone who wrote, "It's like a countdown for your life.  Put in some future date that you reasonably expect to live, and then watch the seconds count down.  It puts things in perspective."  Yikes.   That's why I started this gratitude blog with Blago in mind.  Keeping things in perspective.  On the day before he was heading to prison, he declared his gratitude for everything good he had accomplished, and for those who had been there for his family.  I declared my gratitude that I'm not Blago. 

My friend told me that she actually wondered if she would live long enough to see Blago walk out of jail.  She's in her late '50s.  "Anything can happen."  I told her Blago won't be in that long.  She'll be here.  Those seconds are still ticking away in the back of my mind.  Yikes. Wasn't I supposed to be making plans to see the Iguazu Falls in South America?  Maybe after I pay the orthodontist.  Really.

Huge decision ahead of me.  Work in the garden tomorrow or go to my son's baseball game?  I guess the weeds will be around for the rest of the year.  Let's play ball!  Just keeping things in perspective.  

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Never Let The Dessert Cart Pass You By!

There was a story told by a very good friend of Jackie Kennedy.  They would always lunch together.  One afternoon, as the dessert cart was being wheeled past their table, Jackie asked the server to stop.  As she picked out a treat, her friend instantly knew something was wrong.  Never ever did they eat dessert. 

Jackie shared the fact that she had cancer and declared, "What was the point of all that exercise?"  

My very good friend, J., and I went out to lunch last week.  So grateful to sit with her and catch up on our lives.  As we were being seated, we passed the cooler that was filled with homemade pies. Not only did we order the pecan special, but we ordered it with ice cream.  Why not.  

Today, my daughter and I had lunch together.  Funny that she turned to me and said, "We really should order dessert."  My god, the cheesecake was the best.  Why not.

Remember, there are no dessert carts in prison for Blago to choose from.  Probably none in heaven, either. I'll be grateful each time I get a chance to stop one.  What's the point of letting it pass you by?

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Grateful For Being There When Mom Calls

Did you ever get the call?  It came last night.  I was getting ready to enjoy an early evening walk, when mom called to tell me she was going to be admitted to the hospital.  She's not feeling right.  Something seems wrong.  Tests.

Imagine not being able to get in your car and hold your mom's hand when she's scared.  That feeling of helplessness.  So grateful that this time I'm home.  I'm not out of town.  My daughter said she couldn't stay in her apartment knowing that grandma was alone.  She was at the hospital when I arrived giving mom a facial.  Priorities.

I'm sorry for the times that Blago will get a call.  He'll have to hang up and feel helpless.  Whatever the test results, I'm grateful to be there for mom.

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Give Your Barber An Extra Tip. He's A Luxury.

This exercise in gratitude is catching on with my friends.  A guy I work with told me he felt great because he had just gone to his barber.  He looked at me, rolled his eyes, and said, "Yes.  I know.  I'm grateful I didn't have the prison barber work on me."  

It's official.  Blago's barber has announced the former governor's dark hair is dyed and will turn grey within the first few months in prison.  Worse.  He taught Blago how to trim his own hair.  Next time you only have the funds for a quick trim at Super Cuts, leave an extra tip to show how grateful you are for this overlooked luxury.  

If you visit the prison on Alcatraz, they'll tell you how the prisoners would listen to music that was heard from a nearby dance hall.  (My daughter just returned from a visit to San Francisco. I'm not obsessed. She shared this story.) The prison guards lived on the island, and they would dance on the weekends at the hall.  It made the prisoners very sad to hear the music, and not be able to dance.  It's incredibly warm out today.  I have to work.  I'm looking out the window and I get how the prisoners felt.  I'm going out to enjoy the warm weather tonight.

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Would Being In Prison With Blagojevich Really Be So Bad?

My daughter mentioned this blog to her friend, D.  D has a great memory. Funny response. "This doesn't make sense.  I remember your mother would say how prison might not be so bad.  She'd have peace.  She could read in solitude."  Thanks, D. 

There's something to that.  The Colorado setting where Blago now lives seems idyllic.  I can imagine having nothing to do but read and getting lost in great stories.  No one there to ask if dinner's ready.  I've read that guys get so used to the solitude, that they can't stand it when they come out.  All of a sudden, the bills are due, the tires need to be replaced, the house needs to be cleaned.  Who wouldn't think about solitude?

I'm going to make the time to read this summer.  I haven't used that hammock in a long time.  I can read as long as I want, at any time of day.  I won't have to report to the warden...well....sort of.  

Last night my son came home from baseball and asked if dinner was ready.  I realized that he's leaving for college in a few short years.  No one will ask me if dinner is ready again.  I gave him a huge grateful hug.  

Monday, March 19, 2012

Sleeping In Never Felt So Right

Yesterday morning I was able to sleep in.  No alarm.  Most days I would never have appreciated this, but it dawned on me that every morning, Blagojevich is forced to wake up at 6 a.m.  Every morning.  I imagine fluorescent lights being turned on.  A loud buzzer in the prison cell.  I was grateful to hear the birds chirping.

A new day.  A fresh start.  New adventures.  Days in prison have been described as a scene from, "Groundhog Day."  Same old thing.  Funny.  That's how I describe my own life sometimes.  No more. 

I met up with my younger daughter.  Both my girls are my best friends.  They're brilliant, funny, independent women.  When I told her I was trying to make the most of the next 14 years, she realized she is the same age now as Blago's younger daughter will be when he gets out of prison.  She reflected on all the milestones big and small since she was 9 years old.  So much to be missed.  I was grateful that I had been there with her. 

If anyone out there has a young child, always know that your child's life is just like a swing.  You push them in the air as an infant, and the swing comes back at you with a young adult.  I swear, I have no idea where that time goes.  Pictures and scrapbooks won't help you.  I looked at the cutest photo of my 14 year old son when he was 4 years old.  I asked myself, "Who was that?"  Blago will be talking to his daughters every day.  It might be for only one minute, but that minute is going to be full.  I'm grateful for all my minutes with my children.  I promise myself to make sure I don't take that time for granted.  

Saturday, March 17, 2012

The Choice To Choose

Hmmmmm.......Should I wear a green necklace to celebrate St. Patrick's Day, or the green earrings?  I'm so grateful that I have the choice to choose one or the other.  Blago is only allowed to wear a single wedding band.  

It was an exceptionally warm day, and I really wished I had a new spring skirt to wear,  but I was grateful that I was able to choose something other than the same old plain khaki pants and an orange prison shirt.  

My son and I had a heart to heart talk this morning over breakfast.  That rarely happens.  So grateful that I could touch him.

My mother, daughter, son, and I drove around for over an hour trying to choose a place to have lunch.  We wanted to sit outside near a lake.  We ended up finding a terrific spot.  I'm so grateful that we had the choice to choose. 

Friday, March 16, 2012

What Will I Be Doing During The Next 14 Years While Blagojevich Is In Prison?

I watched former Illinois Governor Rod Blagojevich walk into prison yesterday.  He's going to spend the next 14 years there.  Imagine all he will miss.  His daughters will have gone through high school and college.  Perhaps they'll be married. 

He's my age.  I got to thinking that the last thing I want to do is find myself with nothing to show for the next 14 years.  I don't want to find Blagojevich has saved more money by cleaning prison toilets than I've saved.  I want to appreciate every day for at least one special reason.  If nothing else, I want to find myself watching Governor Blagojevich leave prison and think to myself, "I experienced so much while he was away."  So today I begin my own journey of gratitude.  Grateful not be Blagojevich.  

Yesterday afternoon I purchased hair color for my roots.  SO grateful that I can cover the grey.  Blago has to let his hair go white.  My family watched the NCAA Tournament.  I was grateful that I had my own bag of sour cream chips to munch on.  I imagined Blago watching the game on his sad little metal bed without his favorite chips.  Last night I was grateful for an extra blanket.  Really.  I even had THREE pillows.  So grateful.  I saw a photo of his cell.  One blanket and one pillow.

This morning I was grateful for my shower curtain.  Grateful for my privacy.